Guide to using taxis and private hire vehicles

Did you know that there are two types of licensed vehicle? Hackney carriage vehicles and private hire vehicles.

Hackney Carriage Vehicles (Taxis)

Hackney carriage vehicles can be hailed in the street and are traditionally known as ‘black cabs’ or ‘taxis’, although there are now a number of makes, models, and colours of vehicles which are licensed as taxis.

Hackney carriage vehicles can be hailed from the street when the 'For Hire' light is illuminated, hired from a taxi rank, or booked in advance from an office or taxi company.

Licensed taxis have an external roof light displaying the word ‘TAXI’ and can be recognised by a white plate on the front and rear of the vehicle with Wirral Council's logo and the plate number which is unique to that vehicle. The rear plate also shows the make, model, maximum number of passengers, and the expiry date of the licence.

Example of Wirral Hackney Carriage vehicle front plate

Front plate - Hackney Carriage Vehicle


Example of Wirral Hackney Carriage Vehicle rear plate

Rear plate - Hackney Carriage Vehicle




When the 'For Hire' light is on, taxi drivers cannot refuse a fare without a reasonable excuse.

All taxis must have a meter fitted within the vehicle which calculates the fare for a journey.

Wirral Council has set the maximum fares that can be charged for taxi journeys, which include any VAT. However, it is up to the individual taxi driver whether or not they decide to charge the maximum fare - they can choose to charge less. A table of fares must be displayed prominently inside the taxi for customers to be able to see the maximum fares that can be charged.

Maximum fares vary depending on the time and day that you travel.

Taxi meters are required to be switched on when you are seated at the start of your journey, and then if a driver wishes to make any discount, he can do so at the end of a journey.

For journeys that end more than 4 miles outside of Wirral, taxi drivers may use the meter or agree a fare with the passenger before the journey starts.

A taxi driver can only charge a fare that is calculated from the point where you start your journey.

Private Hire Vehicles

Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked before you travel via a licensed Private Hire Operator only. These vehicles cannot be hailed on the street in the same way as hackney carriage vehicles and you cannot book directly with the driver.

Private hire operators provide a number of different methods to book vehicles with them including by telephone, using their app, or booking via their website. A small number of private hire operators take bookings in person at their offices.

When making a booking you should be asked for information about you and your planned journey including your name, pick-up location, destination, pick-up time, and how many passengers are travelling.

If you have any particular needs that need to be catered for you should let the private hire operator know at the time of the booking. Examples may include whether you have a disability requiring additional assistance, you have an assistance dog, a large or bulky item, luggage, etc.

It is a good idea to ask for an estimate of how much the journey will cost.

Private hire vehicles can be recognised by an orange plate attached to the front and rear of the vehicle with Wirral Council's logo and the plate number which is unique to that vehicle. The rear plate also shows the make, model, maximum number of passengers, and the expiry date of the licence.


Example of Wirral Private Hire vehicle front plate

Front plate - Private hire vehicle


Example of Wirral Private Hire vehicle front plate

Front plate – Private hire vehicle





Once your vehicle arrives, always check that it is the correct vehicle before getting in. The driver should have your name and your destination.

Private hire vehicles must display a door sign on both sides of the vehicle with the words 'Advance bookings only' or 'Private hire only' at the top, with the name of the private hire operator, and the operator’s preferred method of contact such as a telephone number or app name underneath.

If a private hire vehicle is travelling along a road looking for customers, they are acting illegally, are therefore likely to be uninsured and are potentially dangerous.

Unlike hackney carriage fares, private hire fares are set by the individual private hire operator and are usually charged by a set amount per mile.

The statement of fares supplied by the private hire operator should be clearly visible inside the private hire vehicle to the hirer.

A lot of private hire operators now use electronic devices to calculate the fare using GPS which tracks the journey. Where these devices are used they should be positioned in a manner which is clearly visible to the hirer.

Be taxi aware

Always plan your journey in advance and take a taxi or private hire vehicle you can trust by following these rules:

  • make sure you only ever use a licensed vehicle displaying valid front and rear plates
  • know the difference between a hackney carriage vehicle and a private hire vehicle. You can only hail hackney carriages on the street, and private hire vehicles must be pre-booked
  • pre-book your journey wherever possible, especially if you are travelling very late or early in the day
  • wait for your booked vehicle to arrive. Never get into another vehicle if it arrives in advance of your booked vehicle
  • know where the local taxi ranks are. A list of hackney ranks on Wirral is available here
  • always check the driver's badge. All drivers are issued two badges by Wirral Council which confirms they are a licensed driver. Drivers should always wear one and clearly display the other in the vehicle
  • ride with friends where possible. Sharing a vehicle is a great idea and you can share the cost
  • do not get into a vehicle if it is booked for someone else. If the vehicle is pre-booked by another person you should wait for your vehicle to arrive
  • only get into a vehicle when you are sure. If you have any doubts, don’t get in and order another vehicle
  • make sure you check the fare table so you know you are paying the right price

Your rights as a passenger

When you have hired a taxi or pre-booked a private hire vehicle you have certain rights as a passenger.

  • the driver must take you to your destination by the shortest route possible, unless you have a preferred route
  • the driver must comply with any reasonable instructions you give
  • the driver must not allow other passengers to share the vehicle without your agreement
  • if requested, the driver should assist in loading and unloading luggage and should also carry it to and from a house, station or place where you are picked up or set down (unless they have a valid exemption certificate issued by Wirral Council)
  • the driver must only charge the fare that is being shown on the meter unless the fare is agreed before the journey starts

Provide Feedback

If you believe the standard of service that you have received from a licensed driver has exceeded what you expected, you may want to let the driver or the private hire company know.

If the standard of service has fallen short of what is expected or the vehicle is not up to standard, you can report these matters to the Licensing Authority by submitting a Complaint Form.